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How ITI Train Will Operate within Iran, Pakistan, and Turkey

National railway authorities of Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan have mutually agreed to restart the ITI train project after Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) meeting held online in Istanbul. The Istanbul-Tehran-Islamabad (ITI) rail service was launched in 2009 and became development project under ECO. Now it will reportedly resume operations from 2021.

Currently, the track will be used for freight services but conventional transportation is also in consideration. The meeting specified that the route has been designed to improve economic relationship between Istanbul, Tehran and Islamabad.

ITI Train Route to Improve Cargo Speed for ECO Countries

United Nations (UN) has recognized the ITI train route as an international corridor between the three countries. It is spread at a length of 2,600 KM in Iran, 1,950 KM in Turkey and 1,990 KM in Pakistan, covering a total distance of 6,500 KM. It is expected to travel that distance in only 11.5 days. Previously, it took 45 days in the transit. All three countries have reportedly agreed on tariff rates and a balanced timetable

Reportedly there will be 20 and 40 feet containers for transporting goods between countries. Here are the tariff rates for cargo transport per KM.

CountryTariff Rate for 20 Feet ContainerTariff Rate for 40 Feet Container
Turkey25 euro cents31 euro cents
Iran25 euro cents31 euro cents
Pakistan18 euro cents27 euro cents

The route was only used for test journeys since its establishment. There was no regular journey due to infrastructure that needed serious development. The project is expected to prove vital for trade between the three countries. It also came as another development for Pakistan in the rail sector after reopening of Karachi Circular Railway and inauguration of Orange Line Metro.

Potential Capacities Of The Railway Project 

Project consultants invited to consider the future capabilities of ECO trains which would enhance the cargo capacity and add passenger service. They expected that if Zahedam-Bam route was established in Iran, then it could carry 2 million tons of cargo and 500,000 passengers annually. They also said that this capacity can further increase 8 million tons of cargo and about 1 million passengers.

However, the current train’s capacity to carry passengers is not verified. The train operated once a month but now it will operate on weekly basis. This projects not only connects Pakistan with the Middle East and Europe but also other countries along the Indian Peninsula. ITI trains will also cater to Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan.

Possibility Of Expansion Into European Markets

According to trilateral agreement between Iran, Turkey, and Pakistan, other countries may also join to utilize the route. Reportedly, India was also trying to access the Middle Eastern and European markets and has also officially requested to be a part of ECO railroad project. Pakistan Railways reported that Bangladesh has also sent them similar requests and agreed to use the services of Pakistani rail company to transport their cargo in Middle East and Europe.

This aim of this project was to strengthen the economic relations among ECO member countries in which India and Bangladesh are not included. However, for Pakistan ITI train can be a low-cost, time-saving, and safe route for goods transport between Asia and Europe, as compared to marine transport.

From Istanbul, the route can connect with European rail networks via 76 KM long underwater Marmaray railway tunnel. Other countries in the peninsula have been expressing their readiness to join this project.

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